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Genus: Cucurbita maxima, C. Moscata - Family: Cucurbitaceae
Pumpkin and its origins
Pumpkins originate in Central America. The first evidence of Pumpkin seeds was in Mexico and dates back as early as 8750 BC (Valley of Oaxaca) and 7000 BC (Ocampo caves in Tamaulipas).
It was first cultivated in Europe in the early 16th century, brought to the continent by early Spanish colonists on their return from the New World. The pumpkin has always been an important source of food in poor areas.
How to Plant Pumpkin
Pumpkins thrive in a warm, temperate climate with an optimum temperature of 18-24oC. They can be planted directly outdoors as soon as the soil temperature exceeds 15oC and there is unlikely to be further frosts.
Plant seeds outdoors from March to May placing 3-4 seeds in holes that are 2-3cm deep. Plant the seed holes in rows, giving the plant plenty of space to grow. Each row should be between 1.5-2m apart.
Once the shoots begin to grow, thin back, removing the weaker shoots and leaving 1-2 seedlings per hole.
Seeds can also be sown indoors initially; the seedlings should then be transplanted outdoors between April and May.
Pumpkins are not over-sensitive to soil conditions but will benefit from a soil that is loose and a medium texture. However, it is more demanding when it comes to fertiliser. Pre-sowing, add xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx (xx g/m²) and follow-up with three further doses of fertiliser, each time applying xxg/m² of the same fertiliser. The first fertiliser application after sowing will take place when thinning the shoots, the second after a month and the final dose before the foliage completely covers the ground. Alternatively, when foliage appears, use xx-xxg /m² of xxxxxx xxxxxxx, immediate-release fertiliser.
Water initially once sown, then after transplantation and then continue to water regularly until the appearance of the fruit. Where possible, avoid wetting the leaves of the Pumpkin plant.
When to harvest Pumpkin
An annual herbaceous plant, the pumpkin can vary considerably in size and shape and is available in spherical and oblong varieties. The rind is tough and leathery with colour ranging from light yellow to green, orange and brown, some with a mottled appearance. The pulp is most commonly orange and contains a number of large seeds.
The plant itself is a vigorous, creeping stem with branches that are several metres long but can also be short, depending on the variety. The leaves and stems are covered with hair and feature large yellow flowers which are edible.
Harvesting takes place once the foliage and stalks have dried out. Look closely at the stalks and you can see that they have begun to crack, then remove the fruit by cutting with a knife.
Pumpkins can be stored throughout winter in a cool, dry place.
Did you know
The giant varieties of pumpkin come from the Cucurbita maxima species, producing the large winter squashes.
At maturity, some varieties of the species Cucurbita Lagenaria have almost no pulp and a very tough skin. In the past they have been grown to act as a vessel for water or wine.
The bright yellow pumpkin pulp is packed full of vitamins A, B & C, in addition to minerals and fibre. It is most commonly used in the USA as a cooking ingredient. However, it also makes an effective face mask when mixed with honey.
Diseases and pests affecting Pumpkin growth
Aphids , White fly, Leaf and black cutworm terricolous, Click-beetles and mites, Powdery mildew, Downy mildew, Gray mould, Sclerotinia, Pythium, Bacterial cladosporiosi